This is Henry Reilly. He is a UKIP councillor for Newry and Mourne District Council – the southernmost council in Northern Ireland.
A staunch Loyalist, Reilly is known for his outspoken views on Sinn Féin. In March, he criticised a council’s decision to make plaques for two deceased councillors of the party, whom he accused of trying to ‘demean and insult’ dead Protestant civilians.
More disconcerting is his support for Bashar al-Assad.
So far so public.
However, SLATUKIP can now reveal a new exclusive on Henry Reilly. On the 21st of February this year, an episode of Coronation Street included a kissing scene featuring two men. (One of them was Todd Grimshaw, the soap’s first openly gay character, who had made history ten years prior with the soap’s first ever gay kiss.)
Later that evening, Reilly took to facebook to express his opinion on the scene.
It got 61 likes.
Putting aside the homophobia for a moment, one wonders how much influence he thinks he has to be able to ‘ban Coronation Street’!
What followed were comments by Reilly’s facebook friends, a few of whom agreed with his sentiment.
Note how the comments in red boxes express outrage. Yet none of them specify what the outrage is about.
This is a form of dog-whistling, a way for bigoted views to be expressed in a manner too obscure to be detected (and challenged) by those who disagree with them. Note how several other commentators (in blue boxes) ask for the source of this outrage but are repeatedly ignored.
Though I suppose replying with ‘I am outraged by two men kissing‘ would look rather silly, wouldn’t it?
(By the way, the pink box above is reserved for one bright spark who did just that.)
Of course eventually, the source of the outrage was revealed (see green boxes) and we must point out all the good people who challenged the views of Reilly and a few others. Here are just some of them.
But back to Henry Reilly. He returned to the thread to explain the status, but predictably made things worse.
And after implying that homosexuality was abnormal, he tried to diffuse the situation by making a cringeworthy joke directed at a gay man who challenged his views. (The joke refers to Silvestergate.)
By this point, Reilly must have realised he was in a spot of bother, for he deleted the original status, citing ‘nasty posts’ (by others? ha!) as his reason.
So what does this all mean for UKIP?
Firstly, due to the European Elections’ use of proportional representation, Reilly is the sole UKIP candidate in Northern Ireland. One wonders whether it was wise of UKIP Northern Ireland to put all their eggs in the basket, so to speak, of a man with such unsavoury views.
Secondly, you would expect Nigel Farage to try and distance himself from Reilly, but it’s not that simple. Reilly received lavish praise in public from his leader last month, while they were on the campaign trail together:
“Henry has built a considerable reputation as a public representative with a phenomenal work rate and a ‘dog with a bone’ attitude to getting issues sorted. We are absolutely confident he will make a great member of the growing UKIP team in Brussels.”
Looks like Farage will have egg on his face. Again.
p.s. I am aware that the egg hit only his shoulder but hey, poetic licence.